Visitor spending generated $775.97 million in direct economic impact to Williamson County during 2020, according to Visit Franklin, the county’s convention and visitor's bureau.
According to newly released economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, that was a 31% decrease from the previous record-high $1.12 billion in 2019. According to data from DK Shifflet, the county welcomed 1.23 million visitors in 2020, a 31.9% decrease from 2019’s record 1.81 million. The decline in revenue and visitation marks the end of a 10-year streak where the number of visitors and their economic impact on the county had increased year-over-year.
Williamson County remained No. 6 of Tennessee’s 95 counties based on the economic impact of tourism and was one of 10 counties across the state to suffer a decline of at least 30% in 2020.
Despite the effects of COVID-19, efforts to promote outdoor travel and expanded domestic road trip opportunities helped Williamson County, and Tennessee, outperform the national average decline of 42%.
“We all know that 2020 was a difficult year for so many, and the hospitality industry specifically took a tremendous hit,” Visit Franklin President and CEO Maureen Haley Thornton said. “These final numbers from 2020 reflect that, but I am also thankful to the local community. They supported our local businesses, booked staycations and visited attractions across the county that employ so many. That local support boosted our hospitality community during a very difficult time.
“As we have seen travel begin its return this year, we, along with our hospitality partners around the county, remain vigilant of the ever-changing climate around COVID-19 variants. We will continue to highlight Williamson County as a safe destination to domestic travelers, and when the time is right, to our international visitors as well.”
Tourism-related spending generated $40.31 million in state and $27.75 million in local tax revenues in Williamson County. Because of tourism, each household in Williamson County pays $874 less in state and local taxes.
Locally within the hospitality industry, hotels and lodging saw the most significant economic impact, falling 51.6% from 2019. Recreation spending saw a 38.5% decline, while retail spending by visitors dropped 29.1%. Transportation spending fell 25.6%, while food and beverage saw an economic impact reduction of 20.6%.
Visit Franklin operates from a portion of the local hotels’ lodging taxes collected from visitors. Those collections are then reinvested in sales and marketing efforts to attract the world to Williamson County for leisure travel and sports, meetings and group business. In 2020, every dollar invested in efforts by Visit Franklin resulted in $312 of economic impact. That figure was down from $466 in 2019.
The majority of funds collected through lodging tax each year is distributed to participating cities for use on tourism enhancing capital projects that are also beneficial to residents, such as park improvements, and contributed to Williamson County’s general fund where they help offset the expense of county schools, emergency services, road projects, etc.
Economic impact information is determined by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, then distributed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Values represent the direct impact of spending, labor income, employment, and taxes for domestic and international travel. In the transition to Tourism Economics, all counties across Tennessee, including Williamson, have experienced an adjustment in overall economic impact. This is a new data source and vendor that should not be compared with previously published documents due to the changes in vendor and measurement model.
The full economic impact information provided by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for 2020 is included in the .pdf below.